Q&A  | 

Covid 19 and collaborative economy with Albert Cañigueral

"Thanks to open data the way in which the pandemic is being fought is very collaborative."

Tags: 'Albert Cañigueral' 'Confinamiento' 'Consumo colaborativo' 'Economía colaborativa' 'Economía de plataformas' 'Ouishare' 'Pandemia' 'Plataformas digitales'


Reading Time: 4 minutes

Albert Cañigueral is the founder of the blog www.consumocolaborativo.com (2011) and Ouishare development leader in Spain since 2012. He is considered one of the top platform economy experts in the Spanish speaking world as well as a connector of people, projects and ideas.

His work focuses on research, inspiration and consultancy for companies, organizations and people to adapt to the digital age. He gives lectures and classes, publishes studies and books, organizes events and explores the best alternatives for a responsible and ethical use of digital technologies in the society of the 21st century: digital social innovation.

Can you give us an overview of your work?

I am a “connector” at the Ouishare network. Ouishare is a community-network made by explorers who are interested in finding out about the impact of technology on society from a critical and constructive point of view.

From within this group my work focuses on the future of work and digital platforms. I give trainings and talks, write reports and do consultancy work related to the former for all kinds of organizations like Digital Future Society, the Inter-American Development Bank or the Suara cooperative.

Whats the collaborative economy?

In fact, as per 2020 we talk more about the platform economy and not so much about the collaborative economy so as not to mislead. In the platform economy digital platforms act as intermediaries in the field of consumption, leisure, mobility, education, tourism, work, etc.

Platforms are digital governance tools that create an ecosystem around you. Platforms define and delimit the type of social and economic exchanges that can occur within that ecosystem.

This concept includes platforms such as Airbnb, Verkami, SocialCar, Wikipedia or Facebook. They are projects of all kinds, scale and purpose, but always based on a digital platform model.

It's the first time in history where science has made such a global joint effort to fight a pandemic. Can it be said that science is now following a collaborative model in the Covid 19 treatment and vaccine research?

Definitely. Thanks to open data, the culture of exchange and digital platforms, the way in which the pandemic is being fought is very collaborative.

Today it is easier than ever to connect and participate in these ecosystems. Complex ecosystems with ideals to tackle complex problems that no one can solve on their own.

How can this collaborative research and work efforts result in collaborative profit?

Things need to be clear from the begginig. As mentioned before, a platform is a tool for digital governance and if you agree to become a user you are “swearing” to the constitution (terms and conditions) of the platforms.

If this constitution is oriented to the common weal, so will the results. If it’s profit oriented for the leaders of the platform, that is what will happen.

In the specific case of medical research and the common weal, there is the case of Salus.coop, a health data cooperative. A very pioneering and interesting project from ldeasForChange which has received the support of the Mobile World Capital Foundation.

Which other examples of collaborative economy have arisen from the lockdown?

Many kinds. I would highlight the maker movement that has set itself to help in the health crisis. At a neighborhood level, projects such as You Have Salt or Super Neighbor have gained many users. Aid funds have been raised through crowdfunding. Not to mention the platforms for sharing open data about the pandemic.

BlaBlaCar has launched BlaBlaHelp these days. SocialCar has been launched  SocialMedics.

Digital platforms are the 21st century tools for coordination and massive participation.

Will our society become more collaborative as a result of the pandemic?

It’ll certainly become more digital and more digital platforms will appear.Whether or not the pandemic will make for a more collaborative society I do not know.

Historically, post-crisis periods have generated moments of great solidarity and platforms provide tools which can be used for and oriented toward the social wellbeing of our society. I will do my best to help in that sense.

In Collaborative Society, Dariusz Jemielniak and Aleksandra Przegalińska talk about the misappropriation of the term collaborative by companies the ethos and practices of which do not adhere to the principles of the movement. Do yo agree on that?

A hundred per cent. At Ouishare we stopped talking about collaborative economy in 2016, 4 years ago, just because of what you just said. Clearly there has been and there still is a “collaborative washing” or “share washing”. It is a term any organization wants to be associated with.

In any case, I do not agree with a binary vision of what is and what is not collaborative. I think it is a highly complex issue with many factors to consider. The work (A Framework for Assessing Democratic Qualities in Collaborative Economy Platforms) by UOC researchers Mayo Fuster and Ricard Espelt seems very relevant to me.

The economic model of the platform, its ownership model, the use of open data and technologies, the relationship with other stakeholders etc is very different in the case of Airbnb, HomeExchange, Couchsurfing or Fairbnb. The dichotomy “this is collaborative and this is not” seems wrong and even dangerous to me.

How successful has the open source movement been so far?

From my point of view, it has had a very big impact. The Internet as we know it would not exist without the open source movement. From servers, routers, blogs with WordPress, etc. everything works in open source. Even Microsoft has been working on many open source projects for years.

The Entrepreneurial State – Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths by Mariana Mazzucato helps gain another point of view.

Opposite the collaborative movement, big companies such as Amazon create distribution monopolies that increasingly affect R+I worldwide. What do these kind of companies represent for the collaborative economy?

One of the characteristics of digital platforms is their network impact and their ability to generate sectoral oligopolies, “winner takes it all”. What we have learned over the years is that this efficiency socially takes a toll and generates a dangerous systemic risk. The article Rethinking Efficiency by the Harvard Business Review perfectly explains it.

In nature there are no 10 kilometers high trees as they would not allow for a rich and diverse ecosystem to grow around them. An ecosystem needs to be balanced to healthily function or it dies. We should follow biomimetism more.

Are collaborative platforms part of your everyday life?

Until the arrival of COVID, I used shared transportation (Bicing, Ecooltra, BlaBlaCar, SocialCar) since I do not own a vehicle. I buy and sell second-hand (especially electronics and sports equipment), I have exchanged houses and I have used Airbnb and Couchsurfing depending on the needs and circumstances.

I have organized a crowdfunding for a documentary, I have contributed to dozens of crowdfundings myself and work in shared spaces since 2012.